Project 366 – Post No. 177 – Merlin

What is Project 366? Read more here!

Last time I saw a Merlin was in Camrose during the AB Big Day even on May 4, so when I spotted one perched high up on a dead branch above the Heritage Wetland Park ponds it was a nice treat. It did not stay put for long. After a few minutes it took off, circled the tree tops, scared the bejesus out of a flock of crows and landed high up in another tree. A Pileated Woodpecker caught the Merlin’s attention. It took off again, this time aiming directly for the woodpecker. An adult Pileated Woodpecker is far too big for a Merlin to take down, but I guess it found the woodpecker irritating and scared it into flight. For a few seconds the two were circling each other in the air before each one landed on a new tree. I guess they realized that none of them was really going to scare the other one away so they just accepted each other’s differences. This is the closest I have ever seen a Merlin, but I still had to zoom in all the way to over 1600 mm to get close enough for a positive identification. The picture quality is certainly not stellar but it serves its purpose as far as identification goes. It was not until I came home and was able to cross-reference my picture against field guides that I was 100% sure that it was a Merlin. The Nikon P1000 is a bit of a double edged sword. On one hand, at 1600 mm zoom very few camera setups would be able to get this close, and those that would would be far more unwieldy and expensive. On the other hand, while the 1600 mm is about half of P1000 optical zoom capabilities, the image quality will suffer at this focal length, specially if the camera is hand held.

Merlin (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) at Whitemud Ravine. September 15, 2019. Nikon P1000, 1613mm @ 35mm, 1/500, f/6.3, ISO 160

May the curiosity be with you. This is from “The Birds are Calling” blog (www.thebirdsarecalling.com). Copyright Mario Pineda.